michael harrison in conversation with diet sayler, 2004 (excerpt)
mh: you started as a mathematician, what made you become an artist?
ds: my love for art began very early, but because in secundary school i was interested in mathematics and natural sciences, my parents wanted me to go to university and study mathematics and engineering. i began my sudies at the age of sixteen and finished when i was twenty-one. then i worked for some years in statics, calculating steel structures for power stations.
during all this time i didn't give up painting... this was happening in the sixties in romania, at the time of ceausescu's dictatorship. i began to understand that only art could give me individuality and freedom in a regime of total suppression…
we had the great ideals of revolution, like young people always had liberty, equality, fraternity. but the reality of communism was focused on power, prisons and concentration camps.. because it was prohibited, abstract art had a very subversive role in romanian society at that time and a large but secret audience… i had to leave romania. 1972 I arrived in germany. it was an enormous cultural schock. i was paralysed and for quite a long time i could not work. than i began the white paintings and after a time, to work with chance as an artistic procedure (as decisions of chance by using the cube to decide the position and the angle of elements). it gave the possibility to introduce instability into the stability of the structures…we all love pictorial space and light, it has o wonderful tradition in europe. but we did not want cultivated, beloved paintings at that time .we wanted to provoke, to strike, no colour, no picturial qualities, only black and white. no illusion, only objective truth. … that meant the objectivity of mathematics, of geometry! this was an idealistic view in an idealistic space. but it was also an illusion.
years later, i realised, that freedom, artistic freedom, is not based on objectivity, but depends on subjectivity,
on the contrary, terms like objective truth and infallibility are those, used by dictatorship and absolutism of all kinds. so i gave up the idea of objectivity and later, at the end of the eighties, geometry would have a new and much more complex significance.
… i was not interested in self expression. but i became interested in the expression of geometry.
the term expression seems strange and in real opposition to the concept of concrete art. the art tradition of geometry is much older than the tradition of concrete art. it was used by egyptians, aztecs, islam and so on,
in very different religions and ideologies and of course with very different meanings and expressions, which have never been used by concrete art, it has a great variety of possibilities and choices. in this sense, every choice is a subjective choice. … the large paintings and the temporary interventions in architectural settings have a common aime, the expression of geometry and the architectural construction of geometry.
the large paintings, which are related to human measure, focus the expression of geometry between the precision of geometric and the emotional aura of large color fields.
the temporary interventions in architectural settings are more extrovert and are dialectical confrontations of my geometric language with every day life, histoty and architecture. here the context is very important and significant for my work…the "throw paintings" and "throw pieces", the diptycs and the bodies, all use the same (my)morphological basics, but in different syntactic constructions. this gives, of course, a great variety of expression to the series…the great fascination of geometry for me is the large repertoire of possibilities, so it has always been tempting to discover new morphological and syntactic elements from a large geometric language …
michael harrison, former director of kettle's yard, university of cambridge.